Native VS Cross-Platform App Development: Main Differences and How They Affect QA

QATestLab
6 min readApr 12, 2023

There are currently more than 2 million mobile apps on Apple App Store and over 3,5 million on Play Market, while the latest research shows that an average person spends 4–5 hours a day in mobile applications. As the usage of such software continues to skyrocket, the task of businesses is to consider the best way to create a high-quality, user-friendly app that works seamlessly across different devices.

One major decision to make here is whether to opt for native or cross-platform app development. While both methods have their pros and cons, the differences between them also have a significant impact on software testing. In this article, we will explore these two approaches to mobile development and examine why they require different QA strategies.

Characteristics of Native App Development

Native development refers to the process of creating mobile applications specifically designed to run on a particular mobile operating system. This method provides users with high-performance applications that are optimized for their particular platform.

Native app development involves writing code in the programming language that works best for the OS on which the app will run. For example, developers can use Swift or C# for iOS development and Kotlin or Java for creating Android apps. This allows them to leverage the platform’s built-in capabilities and provide users with a seamless experience for the specific operating system.

One of the main benefits of native app development is that it allows for greater control over the user interface and overall user experience. Since such apps are platform-specific, it is possible to create customized user interfaces that are optimized for the platform’s design language and conventions. This provides users with a familiar and intuitive experience, which can be crucial for app adoption and engagement.

However, this method of development is usually time-consuming and more expensive compared to the cross-platform one approach. Writing a native app requires expertise in the specific programming languages and tools for the platform. Moreover, if developers want to target both mobile operating systems, they have to create separate versions of the app for each of them. Let’s take a look at a concise comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of this method.

Characteristics of Cross-Platform App Development

Cross-platform development aims at creating mobile applications that can run on multiple operating systems using a single codebase. This approach has gained popularity over recent years due to its cost-effectiveness and ability to reach a broader audience that it provides.

One of the main benefits of cross-platform mobile app development is that it allows developers to create a common codebase and deploy it across several platforms. This means that they do not have to create separate versions of the app for each OS, which can significantly reduce development time and cost. Additionally, since the codebase is shared across platforms, any updates or bug fixes can be made simultaneously for all of them. Some of the most popular frameworks for developing a cross-platform application include React Native, Flutter, Xamarin, Ionic, and Kotlin. They allow developers to write code once and then use it to build apps for different platforms.

The cross-platform approach also offers a wider reach, as it allows developers to target users on different platforms with a single app. This can be particularly useful for startups or small businesses that may limited resources, and it is not reasonable for them to develop separate apps for different operating systems.

However, there are some limitations to this method. One of the challenges is ensuring that the app performs well on different platforms, as the performance can vary depending on the underlying hardware and software. Moreover, while cross-platform development can be cost-effective, it may not be the best option for complex apps that require extensive customization or have unique platform-specific requirements.

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks of the cross-platform method that is important to consider.

To Test or Not to Test, That Is the Question

Since native apps are built with platform-specific technologies and frameworks, they are expected to function seamlessly on the operating system they are built for. It goes without saying that this does not eliminate the need for QA, although native software does not require such extensive testing as cross-platform apps.

However, there are several critical aspects that need to be verified in this type of mobile software:

  • The app’s built-in device features, like access to location and camera, or control over push notifications;
  • Connectivity under varying bandwidth and in offline app mode;
  • The app’s compatibility and support of different devices-browser-OS combinations.

As we have already mentioned, QA issues are much more likely to be found in cross-platform mobile applications. Designed to run on multiple platforms, this software has to be compatible with different devices, operating systems, and screen sizes, which often leads to performance issues. For example, a cross-platform app may not be able to take full advantage of the features of a specific platform, which can lead to limitations in functionality (e.g. inability to access camera, GPS, microphones, etc.). This is why verification of cross-platform software should not stop at using emulators/simulators. Compatibility testing on real devices is absolutely necessary here, as it enables detecting bugs that can be easily missed when testing on virtual machines.

If you develop a cross-platform mobile app, be sure to pay close attention to testing the following features:

  • The app’s function of sending push notifications;
  • Integrations with other services (especially after updates of third-party solutions);
  • The app’s connectivity with smart devices;
  • The function of gesture recognition.

Summing Up

Both native and cross-platform development are viable approaches with slightly different goals. While the method of native development is a powerful way to create engaging, high-performance mobile applications that are optimized for specific platforms, cross-platform software is an excellent option for businesses looking to create cost-effective apps that can reach a wider audience. Both of these software types require testing, although cross-platform solutions demand more attention to QA in order to ensure compatibility and performance across multiple platforms.

The most efficient way to get a cross-platform mobile app ready for release is to test it on a selection of real gadgets, taking into account those devices that are the most popular among your end users. As an experienced provider of QA services, we understand that purchasing and maintaining a large pool of testing devices may not be reasonable for many companies. This is why our range of services encompasses access to a lab of more than 350 real gadgets with the latest models of smartphones, tablets, and PCs included.

Our team can also create a device matrix for you — a selection of devices that will be the most relevant for testing your app. It will be based on your requirements, our market research, and the preferences of your target audience.

We will be happy to select suitable devices to verify your software and provide you with the most accurate end-user feedback. Leave us a quick message and let’s put your mobile app to the test!

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QATestLab

QATestLab is an international provider of independent QA and testing services with 15 years of cross-industry experience. https://qatestlab.com/